Published by: Samhain Publishing
Format: Kindle ARC
Reviewed by: Judith
People. Hands to yourselves and take one big step back: I have a new book boyfriend and he is off limits.
No really, while I may have shared in the past, this time I mean it.
Cash is mine.
We first met him in Off Campus and were given hints at how truly amazing he could be. But in The Girl Next Door, he proves hands down why he’s practically perfect (for me) in every way. He’s that jock with a heart of gold willing to play the lovable goof to spare someone pain; the sexy and extremely open minded hottie willing to try anything once and break all barriers in the bedroom; the dude who will give up a job and a home and a sweet life handed to him by his parents in order to mold himself into something self-made and worthwhile. He’s well…he’s Cash and no matter what some people might contend, he is ALL mine.
Plot: Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.
Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.
To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.
Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.
Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.
Review: I don’t know how she does it, but three books in and Amy Jo Cousins’s Bend or Break series keeps getting better. She is a natural at churning out these spot on NA/coming of age novels with intriguing plots, gorgeous writing, and characters that linger far after the book is done. Straight up, everything about The Girl Next Door is effortless. The characters, the premise, and best of all, the slow slide into Cash’s life. He is just as charming and just as lovable in this book as he was when we first met him in Off Campus. Only this time around, we are privy to his deepest thoughts and ideas. And that is the absolute best.
A few years after leaving college, Cash is having a rough time of it. With no money and a minimum wage job that he loves but doesn’t love him back, he’s ready to call it a day and crawl home when his cousin shows up on his doorstep and drops a bombshell. The only one he can turn to is the one that he let walk out of his life all those years ago: Steph. When he asks her for help, she comes running and manages to bring all those old feelings to the forefront. She is still as feisty and full of convictions as she was when they were younger only now it’s tempered with some perspective and maturity. Watching these two decide to give love another shot is agonizing and it’s not until the very end that you know for sure whether love will win out.
I’ll be blunt: Cash is a phenomenal character. I enjoyed reading Steph, his bisexual former college flame, but it’s really Cash who steals this show. Watching him grow and change as a character is fun and cringe-worthy and laughable all at once. It’s also very, very real. Cash reads as heart-breakingly young while simultaneously world-weary. You sort of wish he could have remained the doofy, forever grinning jock from Off Campus but the guy he becomes is infinitely richer in character and charm.
The Girl Next Door is as much about Cash discovering himself as it is about the second chance at love he and Steph have. It’s the delicate balance between the two that makes this book so good and it’s what elevates it far above your typical NA fare. In the end, I’m giving this one a huge, enthusiastic 10/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the hero: 10. Hhmmm, Cash. Happy go lucky, loyal, HOT, self-effacing, and always willing to go the extra mile for anyone in his life. He’s the guy we all want to be with and the best friend we wished we had. Amy Jo Cousins has outdone herself with this guy and I can honestly say his goofy, brash demeanor hides the sweetest heart (and the most smokin’ body).
How believable is the plot: 10. Down and out dude trying to make ends meet while pining away for lost love? Sign me up! I absolutely adore the second chance at love plot line and we get that in spades here. Making the catalyst of that chance take the form of a gay seventeen year old cousin? Spot on and obviously a good introduction for book four!
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Amy Jo Cousins just gets me. Literarily. She has a fast, catchy writing style that flies by with no hiccups; the world she creates is flushed out and engaging. Plus, and this is a big deal to me, Cash reads like a man.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. If she could just have cobbled together a ton more deleted Cash scenes at the end of this, I would have been ecstatic. As it stands, I loved this story, I loved the characters, and I obviously wanted more!
Final Score: 10/10. I don’t know how I could put this any more bluntly but…READ THIS BOOK. Thank me later.